Following the 2014 death of Michael Brown, who was killed by a member of the Ferguson Police Department, the Washington Post learned that data collected by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was unreliable and that they undercounted fatal police shootings by more than half. So the Post started tracking the data itself and has kept a record of “every fatal shooting in the United States by a police officer in the line of duty since Jan. 1, 2015,” according to an article called “Fatal Force,” published July 14.
Five years ago, the Post began to log every fatal shooting by on-duty police officers in the United States. Within that time, as of 2019, the Post reports there were more than 5,000 deadly shootings by police. In the last year, 1,009 lost their lives. The numbers, year-over-year, according to the Post, have not dipped, even as demonstrations against police killings have risen to a global crescendo. If anything, the reported rate has remained static at 1,000 year-over-year.
To compile its data, the Post used news and police reports and social media postings. It even includes report excerpts from the 5,468 police encounters that ended in death. Flipping through, anyone can see that most fatalities occurred when the suspect wasn’t fleeing the scene.
An important highlight from the data: Black Americans make up about 13 percent of the U.S. population, but are disproportionately killed by police at a rate more than twice that of white people. In other words, for every 1 million Black people, 31 are killed every year, compared to 13 white people. The Post also makes clear that the data only represents line-of-duty killings, not deaths of people in police custody, fatal shootings by off-duty cops or deaths that don’t involve shootings, like chokeholds or tasers.